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  • Elizabeth Whitworth


Dear Friend,

You know David. He was a shepherd. One day he took food to his brothers, who were fighting in the Israelite army in the war against the Philistines. When he got there, he saw a giant who taunted and defied God’s army, day after day after day, because no one had the courage to stop him. David’s attitude: “Who does this bully think he is?”

David couldn’t tolerate Goliath’s defiance of God and His people; he had to act. But he met resistance. “You’re just a shepherd!” “You’re just a kid!” That only made David more resolute, and he went for it, and God gave him success.

You probably don’t know Sarah. She was a scientist. A few years ago, she and Jacob (who would later become her husband) drove into the near-empty parking lot of Epikos Church in Vancouver, Washington, to check out the new church. They almost turned around and went home. They had been part of a large church in Texas before moving to Vancouver, and they weren’t sure that this fledgling church was a fit for them. But they stayed, as they sensed that God was up to something.

Over the next few years, Sarah completed her master’s degree in environmental science and began to work as a research assistant, setting herself up for a career in her field of education and experience.

Both Jacob and Sarah volunteered at Epikos, and Sarah in particular was committing more and more time to the church. The Epikos staff (of which I am a member) sensed that her wiring, her passion, and her walk with God were a perfect fit for what God was up to, so we invited her onto the team. In November 2012, she joined the staff with an open mind, but her intention was to serve in ministry until she had a chance to work full time in environmental science.

Over time, Sarah has become indispensable to the team. She is a full-time member of our staff, leading our life group ministry and communications team, co-creating and facilitating our missional communities, and mentoring other leaders. Earlier this month, she performed her first baptism!

David didn’t ask Saul for permission; he informed him that he would go fight Goliath. David wasn’t trained as a soldier, but he used his relevant experience as a shepherd to fuel his confidence. David wasn’t armed as a soldier, but he used his shepherd’s staff and sling to bring down the giant.

Sarah didn’t solicit permission to serve in ministry. She wasn’t formally trained in theology or ministry. But she has redirected her skills and passions to be a powerful minister in her local church, and her ministry is bearing fruit.

I admire Sarah. She takes risks. She doesn’t make excuses. She speaks her mind, and she engages her heart. And, for a marine biology expert, she sure knows how to put people first. Her growing desire to see people chose God perfectly aligns with Epikos’s mission to reach the Next Person.

One of the undeniable truths on which Mission Catalyst operates is this: Leaders don’t wait for permission to obey God’s promptings. Once they hear His voice, understand His heart, and consult with people they respect, they act.

You see, David’s primary identity wasn’t “shepherd”. Sarah’s primary identity wasn’t “scientist”. Both of them simply were living as God followers, going where He led, even though the path didn’t look anything like the plan.

The Bible has more of these stories. So does Mission Catalyst. So does the whole Kingdom of God. Usually we end these letters with an appeal for financial support to resource churches like Epikos. This time I want to ask you for something more. If He hasn’t already, could God be calling you to vocational ministry? Is He gently nudging (or strongly tugging) you to redirect your gifts and passions as a primary leader or team member in a church? Or maybe you’re already a ministry leader, but you are increasingly convinced that your calling might be to a different city or context.

Perhaps you are the answer to Jesus’s prayer: “What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So, on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands” (Luke 10:2, The Message). Time is short; people need Jesus. So, where is God leading you?

Yours for the Kingdom,

Elizabeth Whitworth Associate Directional Leader, Mission Catalyst Director of Character Development, Epikos Church

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